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Juneteenth is a Day to Reflect, Examine, Advocate

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Jeremy Haefner

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Dear DU Community,

Tomorrow, June 19—Juneteenth—marks the day in 1865 when enslaved Texans first learned about President Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which announced the end of slavery in the United States.

Our country and our campus have never fully recognized the significance of this day. So, beginning this year, the University of Denver will recognize Juneteenth as a day of reflection, learning, and action. As such, June 19 will henceforth be a paid day off for all DU faculty and staff, and no classes will be held.

While Juneteenth is a state holiday in Colorado, it is not yet a national holiday. By declaring Juneteenth a University of Denver holiday, we are engaging in the long arc of “freedom delayed” that Juneteenth represents, and we are showing our support for the growing effort to recognize Juneteenth nationally.

Though this moment in history is cause for much celebration, we also know that Juneteenth compels us to recognize that, even as they received their freedom, many Black people in the United States were, and are still, subjected to systematic oppression and discrimination.

It is my hope that all of us in the DU community will use the time we have during this holiday to reflect on the challenges facing Black people across our nation today, and to consider what we all can do to join in the struggle for freedom and justice.

We will continue to examine and enhance our own systems and practices at DU that contribute to inequality and we pledge to:

  • Develop a concrete action plan with specific goals and measurable outcomes;
  • Hire, evaluate, compensate, admit, and advance with fairness and transparency;
  • Listen, learn, and lead with unwavering commitment; and
  • Communicate with transparency, frequency, and honesty.

As expressed in our June 2 letter to the community, it is time to stand on the side of justice. To do better, to be better, we must empathize with all victims of injustice and strive to understand emancipation, equity, and freedom. As we pause our normal work and classroom activity this Friday, let us use the time to enhance our understanding and appreciation for Black culture and ongoing struggles. Let us also use this time for personal discovery and self-education. Below are some ideas. If you feel you are ready to make an ongoing commitment of your time in meaningful ways outside of DU, you can find organizations to join that align with these values through DU’s volunteer portal.


Jeremy Haefner

Ways to Reflect, Examine, Advocate:

  • View the annual Juneteenth Musical Festival, which is livestreaming today from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. MST. It will be re-aired on Friday, June 19. Our own Art Jones, interim vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion and emeritus faculty member, will be honored as a #DREAMBIG Award recipient for his work with The Spirituals Project.
  • Explore The Spirituals Project history while listening to and reflecting on select performances of the choir.
  • Read a transcript of the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • Engage with select readings from DU History Professor Susan Schulten’s contributions to The New York Times regarding Colorado’s role in the Civil War.
  • Reflect on Denver and Colorado’s on-going conversation about the legacy of white supremacy associated with Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton by listening to IRISE’s podcast, R.A.G.E., specifically the 2019 Episode 2: “The Stapleton Name Change Decision.” The episode will compel you to consider what has truly changed since residents in the neighborhood rejected a vote to change the neighborhood’s name less than a year ago. Yesterday afternoon, the Stapleton Master Community Association (MCA) voted unanimously to change the name of the northeast Denver neighborhood.
  • Listen to Apryl Alexander, DU’s associate professor of forensic psychology in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology on DU’s RadioEd June 9 podcast, “Black Lives Matter: Protests, Policy and a Path Forward.”
  • Read here about the different ways that DU is engaging with the movement for Black Lives Matter on and off campus and ask what more can be done.